Miami Heat (54-28, lost in the NBA Finals to San Antonio):
Headline: Bosh Looks to Carve His Own Destiny in the Post-LeBron Era
Summary: Well, LeBron didn’t get his dynasty but four straight NBA Finals and two titles is not a bad run. Now without LeBron, Miami looks to build around Bosh, and whatever is left of Wade at this point, as they look to stave off a complete rebuild for at least a few more years.
Overall Trend: Down, from the title favorites to a team that might be out in the first round is quite a drop.
Salary: $68.18M (over cap)
2015 Draft Picks: Owe Philadelphia their 2015 First Round Pick (Protected for selections 1-10) and owed Sacramento’s 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for selections 31-49 and 56-60).
Biggest Addition: Luol Deng
Losses: LeBron James, Ray Allen, Shane Battier
Best Case: NBA Finals. This team is no longer great but if Wade stays healthy and Bosh is as good as he can be, it is possible, however unlikely, that they made it all the way to the NBA Finals.
Worst Case: First round. Baring a lot of injuries its hard to see this team missing the playoffs but their stay might be short.
Most Likely Case: Second Round. Miami should win a series this year before bowing out.
Washington Wizards (44-38, lost in the second round to Indiana):
Headline: After a Series Win Last Season, the Wizards Look to Keep Moving Towards the NBA Elite
Summary: The Wizards were a lot of people’s pick to make a big jump last year and they certainly did, winning fifteen more games than the prior year and topping off their season with a series win over the Bulls. This team is probably a few years away from being a title contender but their young talented core is one to watch for the next several years. About the only thing that went wrong for them is an injury to Beal, but if the team can hold it together for the month or so he’s out the Wizards will be in great shape.
Overall Trend: Up, even with Beal’s injury this figures to be a better team than last year’s.
Salary: $71.57M (over cap)
2015 Draft Picks: Owed Boston’s 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for selections 31-49)
Biggest Addition: Paul Pierce
Losses: Trevor Ariza
Best Case: Eastern Conference Finals. Given the right matchups and a healthy Paul Pierce this could be a team that surprises more than a few folks by makes it all the way to the conference finals.
Worst Case: First round. This is a good enough team to miss the playoffs entirely but their stay could be a short one.
Most Likely Case: First round. Washington is good but I’d place them a step behind Miami and so rate them a likely first round victim.
Charlotte Hornets (43-39, lost in the first round to Miami):
Headline: The Hornets Look to Build Off a Successful Season and Make a Playoff Push
Summary: The hornets were a bit of s surprise last year, making the jump from one of the NBA’s worst to the playoffs. Sure they had some help with other teams collapsing around them, most notably the Knicks, but they are still a solid bunch. They are not quite good enough to make real noise in the playoffs, yet, but the future is bright.
Overall Trend: Up, the Hornets should probably be slightly better than last year.
Salary: $65.42M (over cap)
2015 Draft Picks: Own both their own picks
Biggest Addition: Noah Vonleh
Losses: Ben Gordon, Josh McRoberts
Best Case: Second round. I really don’t think Charlotte has the firepower to win a series but they certainly could if they get the right matchup.
Worst Case: Miss the playoffs. Charlotte is not good enough to be assured of anything this year. A few bad breaks or injuries and they could be back in the lottery.
Most Likely Case: First round. Charlotte should make the playoffs but they will not be there for long once again.
Atlanta Hawks (38-44, lost in the first round to Indiana):
Headline: With Horford Returning From Injury, the Hawks Look to Make a Playoff Run
Summary: Atlanta was a solid team last year, despite losing Horford to injury for virtually the entire seasons. This is a talented group, not an elite one but one that is certainly capable of making some noise in the playoffs next spring. If only things off the court weren’t going so badly, the Hawks might be in very good shape all around.
Overall Trend: Up, if Horford stays healthy this will be a better team than last year’s bunch.
Salary: $59.13M (over cap)
2015 Draft Picks: Atlanta has the right to swap its 2015 First Round Pick with Brooklyn and is owed Toronto’s 2015 Second Round Pick.
Losses: Gustavo Ayon, Lou Williams
Best Case: Second Round. The Hawks could surprise a team and win a series but that should be all for them.
Worst Case: Miss playoffs. The battle for those last few east playoff spots is going to be close and if just a few games don’t’ go their way, Atlanta could be on the outside looking in.
Most Likely Case: First round. The Hawks should make the playoffs, and quickly be dispatched by the Eastern conference elite.
Orlando Magic (23-59, missed playoffs):
Headline: Orlando Continues its Rebuild as it Looks to Keep Acquiring Solid Assets
Summary: Orlando was only three games better last year than the previous but they showed a fair amount of promise. Oladipo appears to be a great draft pick for them, they added a few more quality rookies in Payton and Gordon and are set for another season tanking for yet more young assets. They will be bad but that’s exactly the point.
Overall Trend: Up, the Magic are nowhere near the playoffs but they should significantly better this year, even if they don’t actually improve by that many wins.
Salary: $57.89M (under cap by $1M)
2015 Draft Picks: Owe Philadelphia their 2015 Second Round Pick, owed the more favorable of Portland and Chicago’s 2015 Second Round Picks and owed the Lakers’s 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for selections 31-40)
Biggest Addition: Aaron Gordon
Losses: Arron Afflalo
Best Case: #1 overall pick. The Magic will probably be too good to have much of a chance at the top pick but hey, they could get lucky.
Worst Case: Late lottery pick. The bottom of the east is so soft that Orlando could pile up a bunch of wins and end up with a late lottery pick without being that good a team.
Most Likely Case: 6-8th overall pick. Orlando will be better than some teams but still nowhere near the playoffs.